The Karagöz puppets set their sights on Lefkoşa – and Nicosia

English: Map of the districts of Cyprus, named...

Image via Wikipedia

When I last left you, I was down in the dumps, perhaps a poor choice of metaphors given the topic at the time – the fact that a set of Qu’rans had been dumped in the garbage bin and burned…somehow this incident about which I have no unique connection hit me hard – and in some ways catapulted me to the bottom of the pit of post-tenure depression, which I now understand to be a documented phenomenon (you can read about that here). The response from readers was both faith re-instilling and heart-warming, but it took a few days to sink in.

Perhaps to perk me up in those few days and perhaps to get me to the task of finding a new academic raison d’être, the karagöz puppet troupe have been in high gear – jumping on the new iPad (gift from M., thank you!) whenever they have a free moment and even when they don’t. I just had a sense that they were REALLY up to something these last few days…and this morning I found out what it was. You see, those puppets, well, they have a new destination in mind.

“Wake up, m’lady, wake up!” Esma the hippie puppet said, as she fanned refreshing morning air towards me with her fresh rose petal fan.  “You need to get up to hear THE BIG ANNOUNCEMENT.”

Half-sandy-eyed, I sat up in the dizzy-movement way of a non-morning person who moves to quickly for her non-caffeinated body – and soul – to handle.  “Announcement?” I croaked, “big announcement?”  Looking around for the dog and the husband, I noted that those two early birds were already up and out of the house on their morning exploration of the nearby pond – and all of its resident canine charms (i.e. squirrel scents).  With nobody around to overhear me talking to the imaginary puppets, I realized I could speak – err – croak – freely. “What’s this about an announcement?” I questioned , begrudgingly exiting the comforting heated flannel sheets.

Karagöz zipped in from the kitchen at warp speed upon hearing this question.  He was so excited that I couldn’t understand a word he was saying for once.  Before long, the chorus of dancing ladies pulled him back with a cane – akin to old-time theatres in which a performer had over sung a song or overstayed his welcome on stage. Replacing the renegade Karagöz with an extra-large glass of tea loaded with sugar to get my brain going, the chorus of dancing ladies made way for the two elder statesmen Hacivad Bey and Yehuda Rebbe and, of course, the matriarch of the puppet troupe, my fairy godmother puppet, Perihan Hanım.

“We have come to announce,” Perihan Hanım began, “that we know the solution for you.  We know you are burned out – maybe some would even say burnt to a crisp with all the work you have put in at your university.  And this, m’lady, this is when you need to start planning for the next phase – and, m’lady, the next phase includes a S-A-B-B-A-T-I-C-A-L.” With a flourish of her sparkly green wand, Perihan Hanım stepped back and made way for Hacivad Bey, who said “we have seen you looking around at options for that year of yours – that magical year when you will do a project for your own professional development – and we have seen that you are either going to propose to write an academic book as part of a local fellowship OR that you are going to apply to take the year and teach in another country.”  Clearing his throat, Hacivad Bey continued.  “We see that you have looked at the Fulbright program – and that you are considering Hungary, Sri Lanka and Cyprus – as all might be interested in a social worker with some expertise in your specific research area. We were sad to see that Turkey was not calling for a person with your skills, but we have a solution.  We, you see, we the puppet troupe in your head, have decided what the best choice is for you.”

Yehuda Rebbe stepped in at this moment.  “M’lady, you have been wondering if it is the right choice, Cyprus, as M. and the dog are not so sure on Hungary and as it looks like Sri Lanka isn’t looking for  your exact specifications, as much as M. would like to go there again, and we know that you have been a bit nervous about the idea of Cyprus as you would likely have to reside on the Greek side, but, m’lady, we puppets have decided that if you are true to your word about being interested in the joys and challenges of cross-cultural life – what better place to go than the lovely capital of Nicosia – which – you see – is actually my birthplace!

“Nicosia?” Hacivad Bey said with surpise, “well, surely my learned friend, you are referring to the wonderful metropolis of Lefkoşa!”

“No, my equally learned friend, I am referring to Nicosia.”






Absorbed by their debate – I realized that the central cross-cultural conflict that exists in Turkey – that set in motion in 1974 – was manifesting right here on my flannel bedcovers in the form of a Rabbi of Greek Cypriot origin (what are the odds?) and a learned Sufi of Turkish-Cypriot origin. Cyprus, an island off of the southern coast of Turkey, is half Turkish and half Greek – as well as the subject of much political strife.  What better place for cross-cultural consideration?

Waving her arm as if casting the debating friends aside, Perihan Hanım stepped in.  “It is decided,” she said with pomp and assuredness, “you are applying for a Fulbright Scholar position in Cyprus.  You will apply to teach on the Greek side and on the Turkish side.  You will learn all about the different brand of academic hell over there – and you will have fun doing it!  You will have to do some crossing of the infamous Green Line if they accept you, but what better place to continue your cross-cultural exploration of life than Cyprus?  We have been whispering into M’s ear at night for several nights -and he is ready to do this as well – for as much vacation time and leave time he can acquire of course – you will have to do some of this on your own.  As for the dog? Well, he doesn’t much like the idea of leaving home, but it will all work out in the end if it is meant to be.  He supports you in your efforts to do this.  Now, get up, and start writing letters of inquiry.  The future is yours if you will just try.”

Before I knew it, the iPad was in my hands, and I was composing notes to academics on both the Greek and the Turkish side of the island of Cyprus regarding letters of invitation – a requirement of the Fulbright Commission in that country.  So, dear readers, keep your fingers crossed that I may write to you, yavash yavash, from Nicosia a.k.a. Lefkoşa during academic year 2013-2014!

Typing away madly, I saw a flash of white out of the corner of my eye.  There they were, the whole puppet troupe, riding around on the dog, with a banner flowing out behind them, it read “Cyprus, or bust!”

This entry was posted in A Karagöz puppet battle, Academic hell, Turkish Controversies, Visits from the Karagöz puppets and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Karagöz puppets set their sights on Lefkoşa – and Nicosia

  1. Pingback: Beyaz kurdeleler: The puppets address violence against women in Turkey and the U.S. « Slowly-by-Slowly

  2. Jack Scott says:

    Few places come more cross-cultural than divided Cyprus. I have Turkish Cypriot friends and memories of the war (whether experienced, imagined or second-hand) are etched into the brain and stir up huge emotion. A fascinating place, though somewhat ruined by relentless development.

  3. Yes, I am hopeful that we will be able to spend the year there to learn and experience more about it all…we have heard of the relentless development. When will we humans learn?

  4. RebeccaV says:

    What a wonderful adventure. I had the pleasure of working with several U.S. American Fulbright professors in my previous job, and they all remarked what a life-changing experience it was. I even received a 2-week Fulbright grant for administrators in international education, but sadly, could not go due to pregnancy complications. All in all a great program, and I love your destination choice for all the reasons you mentioned. Best of luck to you!

  5. Thank you so much for writing, Rebecca! I am hoping to have that life-changing experience…I hope you will be able to go at some point – and I hope that all is well with your child!!!!

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